What is Hyperthyroidism?

The thyroid is a small gland located in your neck that produces hormones that help regulate your bodily functions. Hyperthyroidism is a condition that arises when your thyroid gland is overactive, or produces an overabundance of certain hormones that increase your metabolism and cause unexpected weight loss or heart beat irregularities.

Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is commonly the result of an autoimmune disorder called Grave's Disease, which results in antibodies causing the thyroid to overproduce hormones. Other potential causes of hyperthyroidism can include the following:

  • Excessive dietary iodine
  • Benign (noncancerous) tumors on the thyroid
  • Inflammation of the thyroid, or thyroiditis
  • Excessive intake of tetraiodothyronine which can be found in some dietary supplements or medication

People have a greater chance of being affected by hyperthyroidism under the following conditions:

  • If they are affected by type 1 Diabetes
  • If they are female
  • If they have a family history of Grave's Disease or hyperthyroidism

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism

An excessively high metabolic rate, called a hypermetabolic state, is one of the primary symptoms of hyperthyroidism. Some of the other symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism and being in a hypermetabolic state can include the following:

  • Irregular or rapid heart rate
  • Unexplained or abrupt weight loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased appetite
  • Swollen thyroid gland (goiter)
  • Frequent bowel movements
  • Anxiety, restlessness, nervousness
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Itchiness
  • Hand tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Lack of tolerance for heat
  • Irregular menstrual cycles in women

If left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to more severe health related issues and complications including:

  • Heart conditions, increased risk of stroke, congestive heart failure
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Weak or fragile bones

Diagnosis of hyperthyroidism will usually involve a review of your family and medical history, a physical exam, and a series of blood tests. The blood tests will reveal if the thyroid is producing an overabundance of hormones as a result of hyperthyroidism. Additionally, doctors can perform an ultrasound of your thyroid or a scan of your thyroid that determines how iodine is absorbed into your thyroid gland.

Treatments for Hyperthyroidism

Treatment for your hyperthyroidism will depend on your overall health, age, severity of your hyperthyroidism, and preference. Common treatments for hyperthyroidism can include:

  • Beta blockers - helps with symptoms of hyperthyroidism including irregular heartbeat.
  • Ingested radioactive iodine - causes the thyroid gland to shrink in size. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism typically lessen or go away after several months.
  • Antithyroid medications - reduces the symptoms of hyperthyroidism over a couple months.
  • Surgical procedure to remove your thyroid gland - involves taking hormones for the rest of your life.

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

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